June is Scleroderma Awareness Month

Once thought of as a rare condition, scleroderma is diagnosed in more people today than muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, or cystic fibrosis.

Scleroderma is a chronic connective tissue disease generally classified as one of the autoimmune rheumatic diseases as well as a rheumatic disease as characterized by inflammation and/or pain in the muscles, joints, or fibrous tissue.  Hardening of the skin is one of the most visible manifestations of the disease, as such the word scleroderma comes from the Greek words “sclero” meaning hard, and “derma” meaning skin (Scleroderma Foundation, 2001).  It has two major forms – localized and systemic – localized being more common in children and systemic more common in adults.  Of the estimated 300,000 people in the United States with scleroderma, about one third has the systemic form of scleroderma (Scleroderma Foundation, 2001).  Since the disease has symptoms similar to other autoimmune diseases, diagnosis can be difficult.  For two centuries, the earliest cases of scleroderma defied both an explanation and cure.  Even today, the exact cause of the disease is unknown and a cure has not been found.  Scleroderma is not contagious, infectious, cancerous, or malignant, but it affects women more than men.  Overall, female patients outnumber male patients approximately four to one (4:1).  Knudsen (2009) suggests increased frequency of skewed X chromosome inactivation may explain female predominance in scleroderma incidences. Scleroderma can develop in every age group from infants to the elderly, but its onset is most frequently between the ages of 25 to 55.  Race and ethnic background may influence the risk of developing scleroderma, the age of onset of the disease, and the severity of internal organ involvement.

The Scleroderma Foundation is the leading sponsor of Scleroderma Awareness Month, and also supports the “Scleroderma Research and Awareness Act” H.R.2408, which would increase funding for research. The bill has over 85 co-sponsors. In order to raise national awareness, several walks organized by the Scleroderma Foundation are scheduled for this month. To participate in the walks or for more information please visit the Scleroderma Foundation website

For more information about the Scleroderma Foundation please visit the website.

Scleroderma Foundation – Medical Overview of Scleroderma. What is it? (2001). Retrieved May 21, 2010

What is Scleroderma? (1998). Retrieved May 21, 2010

Knudsen, G. P. (2009). Gender bias in autoimmune diseases: X chromosome in women with multiple sclerosis. Journal of the Neurological Sciences, 286, 43-46.